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Debunking myths: Does cold weather make you sick?

It’s that time of the year where the common colds are spreading like wildfire, the flu is beginning to peak, and a sneeze can be heard around every corner you walk.

For years, we’ve heard people blame the cold weather for their sickness, but is that really the case? You may be surprised to find out just what causes you to be sick during the winter months and it has little to do with the change in weather.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, millions of Americans develop the symptoms for the common cold and flu each year. Most of these symptoms occur during the cooler months, which come from germs themselves, not the cold weather.

So why then do we get sicker often in the cooler months?

Several studies point to how viruses replicate as the answer. Rhinovirus (the common cold) is said to replicate more efficiently at temperatures lower than the core body temperature (98.6°). One area where this exists is inside of our nose where the average temperature is around 90°. It’s the perfect opportunity for the virus to thrive.

As it gets colder, our nose starts to produce more mucus to keep the inside of our nose warm and moist. This is done to prevent our nose from drying up and bleeding. During this process, we inhale and exhale, which releases water vapor. This vapor condensates at the end of our nose, which is where we get the sniffles.

That explains one part of the process. To explain how we get sick, you must first understand that as we constantly breathe in and out, we are breathing in mold spores, allergens and countless other things that make us sick. These are eventually spread through our mucus to others when we sneeze.

So while the cold can weaken your ability to fight off illnesses, it doesn’t cause the illness itself.

There are other factors that are at play when it comes to getting sick during the winter months.

– Cold air forces you inside where it’s warm and viruses are able to spread among others.

– Lower Vitamin D levels thanks to the lack of being out of the sun. Research suggests that Vitamin D plays an essential role in boosting our immune system.

– Lower temperatures decrease the response of our immune system.

– The cold weather causes blood vessels to narrow, which can prevent white blood cells from getting to where they need to go.

It’s important to remember that although the cold doesn’t cause you to get sick, you still want to make sure you stay well dressed and do your best to prevent the spread of any germs. You can do this by washing your hands frequently, keeping hands away from mouth and yes, and avoiding contact with frequently touched surfaces.

While we have been warm lately here, colder weather is heading to Mid-Missouri. This will drive many indoors which could lead to an increased risk of being sick.

Stay with ABC 17 News as we continue to follow the changing weather patterns, which will bring us some of the coldest air this season.

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